6th February 2018: Having experienced many ocean cruise ships I was really excited to try river cruising for the first time and, having just returned from this trip along the Rhine with Shearings I’ve learned a great deal. Cruising on board the beautiful A-Rosa Silva, I was definitely not disappointed.
The A-Rosa Silva is easily laid out and is built across four decks, so you’ll never get lost on-board. The accommodation is towards the back, reception and shop in the middle, and the restaurant and lounge/bar is situated towards the front. While intimate in size, the A-Rosa Silva also features a spa, sauna and gym. Plus on its top deck guests can look forward to a putting green, plunge-pool, sun-loungers and plenty of seating to enjoy the scenery.
One feature which truly fascinated me was discovering that many features on the top deck e.g. the wheelhouse, canopy and railings around the rear of the ship, can all be lowered to pass under low bridges. I later found this to be very important as sometimes river cruise ships can pass under a bridge with millimetres to spare. A-Rosa Silver carries 185 passengers, but will generally sail with 150 and up to 52 crew members. The clientele is primarily German, however in the summer months it’s more varied, with British, Australian and American passengers cruising on-board.
Cabins are situated across three of its four decks, the lowest being at waterline height with a large window. The others all have Juliette balconies, completed with floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding doors. All standard cabins are well-appointed and reasonably sized with plenty of storage space, and feature Austrian twin beds, a bathroom and shower.
Additionally, there are six suites on the A-Rosa Silva - four junior suites and two grand suites, which are larger in size and feature a full-sized bath. The grand suites on board are both fitted with a Juliette and an outside balcony.
Entertainment on-board was courtesy of 'DJ Kay' playing requests, however one evening, we were treated to a special performance from the captain who chose to play a few classic rock songs on his electric guitar!
Daily, there is a challenging quiz question, and a weekly tombola with many prizes to be won. On this trip the biggest prize to be won was a night stay in the A-Rosa Silva’s grand suite.
Catering on-board is buffet style and guests can look forward to a differently themed dinner each night. When you book with Shearings, unlike many other river cruise lines, drinks are included. During my time on board I took part in a 'Wine & Dine' night in which the Maître d’ picked his favourite regional wines and explains why each is perfectly paired with your meal. While this does come at a supplement, I highly recommend you try the session as it’s well worth it!
My itinerary along the Rhine started in Cologne. Upon arrival we were able to visit Cologne’s stunning cathedral and the Steiff Teddy Bear shop before boarding the vessel. Once on-board, we were welcomed with an ‘A-Rose’ and glass of beer before setting sail.
Our first stop was Worms where we had our included excursion to the beautiful Heidelberg, Germany’s oldest and most famous university town. Here we visited the half-ruined castle overlooking the town, then had some free time to explore the old town where we found a wonderful Christmas shop! If visiting, you must try the 'Student Kisses', a local treat with a fascinating story. A sweet symbol and charming souvenir of Heidelberg, Student's Kisses have captured the hearts of residents and visitors alike for generations.
After sailing overnight to Kehl, we crossed the bridge into France before reaching our next port-of-call, Strasbourg. We took a whistle-stop coach tour of the new town and the EU government buildings before we had the opportunity to explore the old ‘La Petite France’ quarter at our leisure.
Wow! What a stunningly beautiful area; cobbled streets, wooden houses, businesses and a fabulous cathedral in the centre, all steeped in history. I couldn’t have visited this place at a more magical time – Christmas!
Home of Johannes-Guttenburg, the inventor of the printing press, Mainz is a town steeped in history. Historically Mainz was a Roman fort city which commanded the west bank of the Rhine, now however, Mainz is a picturesque town and home to a great history just waiting to be explored at one of its museums. It’s also a great place to shop!
Upper Rhine Valley
After re-joining the ship, we started to make our journey back to Cologne, travelling along the unique landscape of the Upper Rhine Valley. Awash with impressive castles and fortresses, you can’t help but be taken in by its magnificent and historical scenery. En-route, we passed the ‘Lorelei’ rock, arguably the most famous part of the Rhine. Local legend would have you believe the tale of a lover betrayed by her sweetheart which was first told as a continuation from the 19th century novel, ‘Godwi oder Das steinerne Bild der Mutter’ by Clemens Brentano.
I took this river cruise in the lead up to Christmas and I can honestly say, the chilly and festive atmosphere at each of these locations made my cruise truly magical. Couple this with the comfortable and stylish features on board the A-Rosa Silva and the friendly and attentive team on-board, I can hand on heart say I would recommend a river cruise.